Some things never change. Like that one piece of nutritional advice that’s been shared with us consistently throughout our lives. If you immediately thought of, “eat your fruits and vegetables,” then you’d be correct! Diet plays a major role in influencing our health and well-being (1-10). Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. This notion is supported by Canada’s food guide, which lists consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables and favouring plant-based protein foods as “healthy food choices” (11).
While the benefits of diets rich in fruits and vegetables are regularly discussed in relation to weight management and chronic disease prevention (3;10;12), we don’t generally hear much about the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables for our bones. When we consider the increased risk of fractures (a.k.a. broken bones) that is caused, in part, by reductions in bone density that occur as a natural part of aging and diseases such as osteoporosis that manifest as we age, it's important we implement strategies that reduce our risk for such injuries (13-15).
So, can a dietary strategy like eating more fruits and vegetables help us reduce our risk of fractures? One systematic review set out to provide answers (13).
What the research tells us
The review found that adults aged 50 years old and over who increase their intake of fruits and vegetables may be between 2% and 13% less likely to experience a hip fracture (13). Although this reduction in risk is small, it’s not unimportant when we take into account that hip fractures cause significant illness, decrease independence, mobility, and quality of life, and increase mortality in older adults (16-20). A small decline in the risk of fractures at any site (not just the hips)—specifically, a 4% to 14% reduction—was also seen, and while this is positive, this result is only based on a couple of studies. As such, it needs to be interpreted with caution. With all of that said, there’s still a need for more research in this area so we can further solidify these findings and increase our confidence in what they reveal. Future research needs to include larger numbers of participants who are more diverse (13).
You can’t go wrong with eating a healthy and well-balanced diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. The potential added benefits for your bones should only serve as one more reason to make a conscious effort to feature fruits and veggies on your plate.
Tips to increase fruit and vegetable intake
Canada’s food guide recommends the following strategies to help you eat more fruits and vegetables:
- Make it easier to incorporate fruits and veggies into your meals or snacks by preparing them for use in advance—i.e. cleaning, cutting, and placing them in the fridge or freezer for later use.
- Take advantage of pre-bagged veggies, such as leafy greens.
- Consider supplementing a meal with sides like raw veggies (e.g., carrots and cucumbers) and adding fresh fruit to your salads.
- Choose fruits for dessert.